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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 678 pages of information about Harvard Psychological Studies, Volume 1.

When the illuminated button is exposed in a darkened room and is fixated by the observer, it undergoes a variety of changes in apparent position due to unconscious shifting of the point of regard, the change in local relations of the retinal stimulation being erroneously attributed to movements in the object.  These movements were not of frequent enough occurrence to form the basis of conclusions as to the position at which the eyes tended to come to a state of rest.  The number reported was forty-two, and the movement observed was rather a wandering than an approximation toward a definite position of equilibrium.  The spot very rarely presented the appearance of sidewise floating, but this may have been the result of a preconception on the part of the observer rather than an indication of a lessened liability to movements in a horizontal plane.  Objective movements in the latter direction the observer knew to be impossible, while vertical displacements were expected.  Any violent movement of the head or eyes dispelled the impression of floating at once.  The phenomenon appeared only when the illuminated spot had been fixated for an appreciable period of time.  Its occurrence appears to be due to a fatigue process in consequence of which the mechanism becomes insensible to slight changes resulting from releases among the tensions upon which constant fixation depends.  When the insensitiveness of fatigue is avoided by a slow continuous change in the position of the illuminated spot, no such wandering of the eye from its original point of regard occurs, and the spot does not float.  The rate at which such objective movements may take place without awareness on the part of the observer is surprisingly great.  Here the fatigue due to sustained fixation is obviated by the series of rapid and slight sensory reflexes which take place; these have the effect of keeping unchanged the retinal relations of the image cast by the illuminated spot, and being undiscriminated in the consciousness of the observer the position of the point of regard is apprehended by him as stationary.  The biological importance of such facile and unconscious adjustment of the mechanism of vision to the moving object needs no emphasis; but the relation of these obscure movements of the eyes to the process of determining the plane of the subjective horizon should be pointed out.  The sense of horizontality in the axes of vision is a transient experience, inner conviction being at its highest in the first moments of perception and declining so characteristically from this maximum that in almost every case the individual judgment long dwelt upon is unsatisfactory to the observer.  This change I conceive to be a secondary phenomenon due to the appearance of the visual wanderings already described.


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